Another Day Sail

It’s Biscayne bay. It’s breezy. It’s beautiful. Let’s go sailing!

We’re trying to do this weekly. We =haul Scout up on deck and scrub the algae off. Then we take Red Ranger out and sail.

We’re getting a little better. Let’s not get silly though, things can still go very much awry. 

Last week, we had light conditions: wind 5-6 kt from about 170°.

This week, we had much sportier conditions: wind 15-20 kt from about 220°.

Much sportier. 

We started out with our full yankee-cut headsail and the full main. We were banging along at 6+ knots. We were also heeled over so far that stuff was falling off shelves below.

Maybe this was too sporty for all that sail. Or maybe it was too much sail for these sporty conditions.

Red Ranger handles it well. We tacked smoothly. We may even have looked like we knew what we were doing.

We certainly felt confident. Nothing went too much awry.

But. 

We were heeled over so far that things had jumped off the counter tops and wound up on the cabin sole. The fiddles are meant to stop things from sliding around when CA is trying to prepare meals in the galley. They’re not big enough to be an actual storage solution. 

This requires thinking. We’re not doing it right.

We struck the yankee and unfurled the stays’l. With the smaller sail, speed fell from 6+ knots to 4 knots. Hard to believe how much power that big yankee creates. And the boat was designed for an even bigger genoa. 

Under a more prudent sail plan, Red Ranger was closer to straight up and down. Much less stuff falling off shelves in the sporty conditions.

Switching Sails

We’ve always been lazy (or cautious) about raising and lowering the main and mizzen. It’s important to have the boom aligned with the wind before hoisting or dropping. If the boom is not aligned with the wind, the sail will either be impossible to move because of the sideways forces or it will get hung up in the lazyjacks. Or both.

We have always started the engine and driven Red Ranger to weather before trying to move main or mizzen. It assures that things are less likely to go awry.

Today, in 15-20 kts of breeze, we decided to try and drop the main without starting the engine. This is fairly heavy conditions for messing with something we’ve never done before. But. Based on our earlier success at tacking and shortening sail today, we’re feeling pretty salty.

We furled the stays’l, turned to face as close to the wind as we could. With the main sheeted amidships, we point about 60° off the wind. Not really close enough to actually drop the sail. At 60° off the wind, there’s huge pressure on the main: we’re sailing: that sail won’t drop more than few inches when the halyard is released. 

If, however, we cast off the mainsheet then the boom flops to leeward and the sail luffs. Once the pressure’s off, we can then drop the main, and stuff it down inside the sailbag.

Done! 

And nothing went awry. Wow!

Once the main was down, we could unfurl the yankee and take off sailing toward the Dinner Key Channel. Cool. Like a real sailboat. No motoring around and cheating.

Under yankee alone (no main), running downwind, we were making close on 4 kt. Lesson learned: main and mizzen are more for balance than power. The yankee is for power.

Not So Fast

We have to chug down the “Dinner Key Channel” (about 1.3 nm) from the entrance mark to the sheltered deep-water around the docks. On the chart it starts at a purple exclamation point that leans down and to right, labeled Fl G 2.5s 5M “1”. It runs NNW between the dashed lines to Fl G 4s “15”

There we turn SW for a short stretch between the ends of the docks and a little mangrove island with no name.

Biscayne Bay.jpg

Then, we turn SE and chug another ¼ nm back out the John A. Brennan channel to the place where our mooring ball is. This starts at Fl R 4s 8ft “16” PA; we go to about R “10”. The mooring is marked “2014-02-20”, our arrival date.

Today, we tried something else that’s quite radical (for us). Instead of chugging, we sailed most of the first mile down the narrow Dinner Key Channel. The wind was fair. Other people do that kind of thing. As a precaution, we started the engine. We’re feeling good about our skills. But not that good. Things can still go awry.

Somewhere around G11, we furled the sail and put the engine in gear.

It took two tries to pick up the mooring. The wind was still blowing 15 kt, gusting higher. It takes a bit more skill than we have to snag the mooring on the first go.

Lessons Learned

We can drop the main or mizzen without anything going awry.

We sailed down a narrow channel without anything going awry.

We missed the first grab at the mooring without anything else going awry.

We have to have a much better stowage plan for sporty sailing conditions. We need to be more careful about leaving things on counter tops even when the tops have fiddles. Countertops are not a storage solution.

We put in about 15 miles over 4 hours with only 1 hr or so of engine time. That’s almost like being real sailors.

© Steven Lott 2020